…that a protein in mice could bring about a better understanding of obesity in humans? A team of U.S. and Israeli scientists have identified a protein in mice that could have both positive and negative impacts on obesity. Their recent BSF-supported study points to a regulating protein active in fat tissue that can helpfully limit weight gain over a short string of “cheat days,” but can turn against the persistently overweight. Led by BSF grantees Prof. Assaf Rudich from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Prof. G. William Wong of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the study found that the protein CTRP6 acted swiftly to mitigate the impact of short-term caloric surplus but could become “pathogenic and maladaptive” when obesity turned chronic. Their findings support the growing notion that the damaging inflammation and insulin resistance (common in the chronically obese) is time sensitive and could be exacerbated by the long-term storage of excessive fat deposits. Rudich is a four-time BSF grantee. With his latest grant, he is working in close collaboration with Wong to focus on metabolic diseases and the protein CTRP6 in the response to caloric surplus and obesity reversal. Read more here.

…that non-invasive brain stimulation can help the elderly maintain balance? As we get older, multitasking can become more risky. The seemingly simple tasks of walking around and using a cellphone can literally trip up elderly persons and cause unnecessary injury. BSF-funded researchers Prof. Jeffrey Hausdorff of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, the Sagol School of Neuroscience and the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, and Dr. Lewis Lipsitz, chief of gerontology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and director of the Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife have put their heads together, along with a team of fellow scientists, to help vulnerable seniors. Their study points to electric brain stimulation as a therapeutic solution to maintaining balance and avoiding falls while carrying out cognitively demanding tasks. According to their research, non-invasive, mild stimulation of a specific brain area increased the “excitability” of brain neurons, improving coordination. This “gentle” intervention could be used to improve the resilience of older adults, potentially enhancing everyday functioning. With falls directly correlated to increased disability and mortality among the elderly, this collaboration could lead to a life-saving intervention. Read more here.

Anatomy of the human ear. (Illustration by Chittka L. Brockmann, Wikimedia Commons)

…that advanced computational processing could be key to reversing hearing loss? While loud outdoor sounds are currently the leading cause of what was thought to be irreparable hearing loss, a recent BSF-supported study points to the possibility of preventing or even reversing the damage. An international team of scientists, using a newly launched online research tool, have narrowed down the culprits of noise-induced hearing loss and identified existing FDA-approved medications that could potentially repair the deterioration and preserve hearing. Their promising findings stem in part from two decades of collaboration between Dr. Ronna Hertzano of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Israeli bioinformatics expert Dr. Ran Elkon of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine. Together, the binational duo has harnessed the power of advanced computational processing to analyze masses of complex biological data and determine meaningful insights for the hearing research field. They produced a clear pattern of gene expression for the noise-related hearing loss that could be regulated by common diabetes medication and anesthetics. Their promising findings and cutting-edge research methods are pushing the field closer to finding targeted therapeutics and hopefully improving the lives of millions suffering from environmental noise damage. Read more here.